Panerai began making watches in Florence, Italy back in 1860, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that the firm produced its first wristwatch. By then its roots in Florence were as deep as those in Switzerland, where Panerai watches were produced.
The breakthrough for the company was an order for diving watches from the Italian Navy, for whom Panerai had been creating instruments of various types since the turn of the century. With a war coming on, the navy was keen to outfit its elite corps of frogmen with wristwatches.
Featuring a Rolex movement, the limited-edition Panerai Radiomir (only 300 were made) was designed for use by commandos and torpedo riders—frogmen who rode a slow-moving torpedo toward a target before attaching a timed mine to the underside of a ship and then riding away. The watches had a cushion-shaped case, a screw-down crown to keep water out of the movement, and oiled-leather straps that were long enough to be worn on the outside of a diving suit. Given their limited supply and the tough conditions they were subjected to, these watches are very highly prized by collectors today.
The watch took its name, Radiomir, from the luminous material that Panerai first developed in 1910. Made of zinc sulphide and radium bromide, Radiomir allowed the numbers and hands on a watch to be read in dark conditions. It was replaced in 1949 by Luminor, which glows thanks to the presence of tritium, a less-dangerous compound than radium bromide.
Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Panerai continued to produce wristwatches for the Italian Navy in regular and destro (left-handed) versions. Some watches from this period were known as Trittico watches, thanks to their trio of features, which included a depth gauge.
Panerai also made Kampfschwimmer watches, some with so-called California dials (numbers on the bottom, Roman numerals on the top), for Germany’s only postwar commando unit. And in 1956, Panerai created a large-face Radiomir watch for the Egyptian Navy.
Panerai might have remained a military diving watch in the minds of the public had it not been for Sylvester Stallone, who, in 1995, purchased a Luminor while on location in Italy. Sales of the watches jumped after its debut in Stallone’s “Daylight,” and Sly even had some watches—dubbed Slytech—made with his signature engraved on the back. These he gave as gifts to friends, including fellow action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger.
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Panerai PAM 598 Radiomir 3 Days GMT Oro Rosso (PAM 598)Perpetuelle.com (blog), October 1st
Reporting on the new many new pieces introduced at Watches & Wonders Hong Kong this year, here's your first look at the new Panerai Radiomir 3 Days GMT Oro Rosso (PAM 598). A real beauty, with a 47mm red gold case and Panerai's in-house ...Read more
Panerai Unveils New P.4000 Micro-Rotor Automatic MovementPerpetuelle.com (blog), September 28th
At Watches & Wonders 2014, ongoing now in Hong Kong, Panerai has taken the covers off of its new automatic movement, the P.4000. The P.4000 is noteworthy as it is Panerai's first automatic caliber with a micro-rotor. The new caliber is being introduced...Read more
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Day three of the 2014 Régates Royales de Cannes – Trophée Panerai, featured the right alchemy that makes sail racing perfect: good weather conditions, excitement and top level crews. The Classics had their course set in the area from Cap Roux to Cap ...Read more
Perfect conditions for day two of Regates RoyalesMy Sailing, September 24th
The second day of the 36th Régates Royales de Cannes – Trophée Panerai was much luckier than the first one. Despite an unusual grey sky, yesterday's strong winds gave way to much more moderate conditions, allowing the Committee to launch a coastal ...Read more
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It was under overcast skies that the yachts docked out of the Vieux Port for the first races of the 36th Régates Royales – Trophée Panerai, closing event of the Mediterranean classics circuit. The starting line for the Classics, positioned not far from...Read more
Regates Royales - Trophée Panerai: Legends in numbersBYM News (press release), September 23rd
As expected, high force 5 to 6 winds swept the Bay of Cannes on the opening day of the 36th Regates Royales - Trophée Panerai, compelling the Race Committee to abandon racing for all classes. The crews waited expectantly until the decision by the ...Read more
Régates Royales – Trophée Panerai 2014 at the heart of historyBoxscore, September 15th
Sprinkle over some sportsmanship, a dose of fighting spirit, add a pinch of gentleman's attitude and you'll have the perfect recipe of the 2014 Régates Royales de Cannes – Trophée Panerai. From September 20 to 28 more than one hundred classic boats and ...Read more
Régates Royales – Trophée Panerai - At the heart of historySail World, September 11th
Régates Royales – Trophée Panerai - Take a world-famous bay with varied and unpredictable weather conditions. Take an army of genius designers who created the most stunning sailing yachts of the last two centuries. Sprinkle over some sportsmanship, ...Read more